Sorry, Mitt: The Presidency is Not Your "Destiny"
Across the political spectrum, pundits, press, money-men and media strategists seem genuinely puzzled by Mitt Romney's apparent decision to seek the presidency for a third time. Even some of his closest supporters and biggest donors think a third Bush since 1988 would be a breath of fresh air compared to the putrid stench of the rotting carcass of a Romney candidacy twice rejected by American voters.
So why is the Romney clan going to subject their patriarch to a White House run matriarch Ann Romney only three months ago declared was "done, done, done?" Simply put, it's because Mitt Romney, the same man who warned Barack Obama would transform America into "an entitlement society," believes he himself is entitled to the presidency.
That, at least, is the word from Ann Romney. As Irin Carmon documented in August 2012:
"I truly want Mitt to fulfill his destiny, and for that to happen, he's got to do politics," Ann told the Los Angeles Times on the eve of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. In his book "Turnaround," Mitt says he initially resisted the offer to take over the games until Ann changed his mind. "There's no one else who can do it," he remembers her saying. Last year, when Mitt entered the presidential race, Ann told Parade, "I felt the country needed him ... This is now Mitt's time." In a March radio interview, Ann declared, "He's the only one who can save America."
Just days after that article appeared in Salon, Mrs. Romney explained to Natalie Morales of NBC News that her husband would fulfill his destiny in 2012:
"We have a reason why we're running and it's because I believe in my heart that Mitt is going to save America, that economically we are in such difficult times and that he is the person that's going to pull us through this."
As she bluntly put it to Diane Sawyer that April, "It's our turn now."
Of course, it wasn't the Romneys turn then, and God willing, never will be. Tellingly, exit polling showed that President Obama mauled Mitt by 81 to 18 percent on the question of which candidate "cares about people like me."
In the general election of 2012 as in the 2008 GOP primaries four years earlier, voters clearly sensed that Mitt Romney only cares about himself. Then as now, the truth did not Mitt free. Instead, it drove him crazy. After John McCain blew him out of the 2008 race in which Romney blew $45 million of his own money, Mitt was fixated on his rejection by voters. As the New York Times explained:
From the moment that Mr. Romney ended his first bid for the Republican nomination, he complained to friends, advisers and family that he had felt cheated out of a chance to explain himself to the country. He had emerged from his debut on the national political stage, he told them, as a caricature he did not recognize: emotionally uncaring, intellectually inauthentic, ideologically malleable.
Over the next three years, a little-examined period in his life, he sought to reclaim his public identity with the self-critical eye, marketing savvy and systematic rigor of the corporate consultant that he once was.
If that sounds familiar, it should. After all, the Boston Globe published virtually the same message in December 2012:
In the coming months, Romney, ever the data-driven analyst, plans to contemplate how his political life came to an end.
Of course, Mitt Romney's political career did not come to an end. It continued full-speed ahead, despite son Tagg's comical claim that "He wanted to be president less than anyone I've met in my life." (Even more laughable, as Mitt has repeatedly put it since 2007, "I don't have a political career.") As the hagiographic 2013 documentary Mitt revealed, Governor Romney is tormented not by what might have been, but what should have been:
Romney's camera-at-all-times plan, however, reflected his own limitations as a candidate. By the same token, it was quite an indictment that "Mitt" -- made by a little-known filmmaker on a shoestring -- created a more palatable rendering of Romney than his campaign, which spent hundreds of millions on genius operatives and image makers. Romney, for his part, seemed to understand this. No matter how content he appeared, when the conversation turned to his disappointment in losing, his voice dropped. "It really kills me," he said. "It really kills me." He became inaudible, and it seemed as if he might tear up.
Might tear up, because he--like his father George before him--never made it to the Oval Office.
That, of course, is the albatross that hangs around the neck of pretty much every failed presidential candidate. After Walter Mondale was drubbed by Ronald Reagan in 1984, he sought wisdom from fellow sufferer George McGovern.
"I said, 'Tell me how long it takes to get over a defeat of this kind.' He said, 'I'll call you when it happens.'"
To put it another way, as Romney himself did in Mitt:
"I have looked at what happens to anybody in this country who loses as the nominee of their party...They become a loser for life," he said, holding finger and thumb in the shape of an "L" on his forehead.
Get used to it, Mitt. After all, it's your destiny.